Theater Review: AS YOU LIKE IT (Actors Shakespeare Project in Collaboration with Theater Offensive, Balch Arena Theater at Tufts University, Medford MA)

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by Lynne Weiss on June 19, 2023

in Theater-Boston,Theater-Regional


Talk about chemistry! The amazing Genevieve Simon, who wowed us with a riveting performance in the title role of Coriolanus earlier this year, flirts and schemes into our hearts in the very different role of Rosalind in Actors Shakespeare Project‘s As You Like it — in collaboration with Theater Offensive, whose mission is “to present liberating art by, for, and about queer and trans people of color.” Simon is a wonder.

Celia Lays Out The Plan - Regine Vital and Genevieve Simon
A Near Kiss - Regine Vital, Genevieve Simon, and Mishka Yarovoy
Touchstone Explains - Doug Lockwood with Regine Vital and Genevieve Simon

Rosalind, a young woman smitten by the handsome and somewhat clueless Orlando (Mishka Yarovoy), disguises herself as a young man, Ganymede, who teaches Orlando how to be a worthy lover and partner. In the process of taking the role of Ganymede and training her beloved, Rosalind transforms herself into the wise and self-assured character who is among Shakespeare’s strongest female roles. Regina Vital, as Rosalind’s best buddy Celia (disguises herself as Ganymede’s sister, adds moxie when she shares her doubts regarding her friend’s schemes — her eye-rolling is a hoot. Indeed, many exchanges between Rosalind and other characters are quite funny as they navigate relationships in the Forest of Arden.

Ganymede and Orlando - Genevieve Simon and Mishka Yarovoy
Finger Guns - Genevieve Simon and Doug Lockwood

Intimacy director Olivia Dumaine certainly had her work cut out for her with these couples: Lindsay Eagle as the disdainful Phoebe (as well as the wrestler Charles) and her longing wooer Silvius (Nathan Malin, also a Lord); the fool Touchstone (Doug Lockwood) and sweetly innocent Audrey (Gavin Newsome); and the pragmatic Celia and would-be killer Oliver (Jaime José Hernandez). All resolve their confused affections to find themselves appropriately matched, thanks to Rosalind’s Tig Notaro-inspired revelation of her identity.

The Wrestling Match - Mishka Yarovoy and Lindsay Eagle
Frolicking in the Forest - Genevieve Simon, Regine Vital, Jaime José Hernández

No mention of the cast would be complete without reference to ASP-founder Bobbie Steinbach (Jaques), whose powerful delivery of the famous “All the world’s a stage” monologue brings a moment of gravitas to the production, just as the difference of height between Steinbach (who appears to be at most five feet tall) and Newsome (six-foot-plus) adds a slapstick sort of comedy. Gabriel Graetz plays both the villainous Duke Senior and the banished Duke Frederick; Fady Demian is both Orlando’s companion Adam and the forest warden Corin. Credit for much of the humor in the production goes to fight director Margaret Clark and movement director Yo-El Cassell.

Orlando Strikes Out - Mishka Yarovoy and Fady Demian
All The World’s a Stage - Gabriel Graetz, Bobbie Steinbach, and Lindsay Eagle

The performance begins with a prologue added to the original. Delivered by Amiens (Adrian Peguero, also Hymen/Lord), the audience is invited to “our finest Drag Queen Story Hour.” Referencing Stonewall, Selma, and Seneca Falls, Amiens situates this production as an act of resistance to the numerous vicious efforts to make any form of cross-dressing or challenges to the gender binary illegal. He urges the audience to “see your life in this tale as you know it/and as you shall like it.”

Silvius and Phoebe - Nathan Malin and Lindsay Eagle
Touchstone Defends Audrey - Doug Lockwood and Gavin Rasmussen

Director Howard Steward, who also provided costume and sound design, realizes his goal of making Shakespeare relevant by transcending boundaries and dismantling oppression of queer and trans people via the Bard’s words. The title of this play says it all, doesn’t it? “As you like it” — which could be interpreted in modern American parlance as “whatever” — implies that gender identity and choice of a lover should be up to you, not the concern of others and certainly not dictated by laws or ordinances.

Jaques’ Final Speech - Regine Vital, Jaime José Hernández, and Bobbie Steinbach
Touchstone Gets Married - Doug Lockwood, Gabriel Graetz, and Bobbie Steinbach

Ben Lieberson (technical direction and scenic design) and the rest of the technical crew (Amanda E. Fallon, lighting; Saskia Martinez, props) do a wonderful job of transforming the intimate space of the Balch Arena Theater into the Forest of Arden with towering trees and hanging foliage made all the more impressive with the use of simple materials.

This is another production for our times. Sometimes the worst of times brings out the best of theater.

The Final Monologue - Genevieve Simon and the cast
Couples Wed - Genevieve Simon, Mishka Yarovoy,
Regine Vital, Gabriel Graetz, and Jaime José Hernández

photos by Nile Scott Studios

As You Like It
Actors’ Shakespeare Project
co-produced with The Theater Offensive
The Balch Arena Theater at Tufts University, 40 Talbot Ave. in Medford, MA
Wed – Sat at 7:30, Sat – Sun at 2; ends on June 25, 2023
2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission
for tickets (Pay-What-You-Can to $52.50), visit Actors’ Shakespeare Project

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